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Don't let poor food handling cause a not-so-merry Christmas

24 Dec 2013

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, is today reminding Australians to handle and store food safely to prevent food poisoning over the summer months.

Dr Hambleton said outdoor entertaining is a large part of Australian life and many people will spend the holidays outside for picnics, lunches, dinner parties or with food for the car trips.

“By properly preparing and storing food, all Australians can have a safe and happy holiday,” Dr Hambleton said.

“Food poisoning affects more than 5.4 million Australians every year.

“Symptoms can be quite nasty ranging from nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, fever and headaches to serious vomiting and dehydration requiring hospitalisation.

Dr Hambleton said to avoid getting food poisoning minimise the amount of time food stays in the temperature danger zone (5OC to 60OC).

“Hot food should be kept hot by keeping it on the stove top or in the oven turned down to just below 100OC before serving, and cold food should be kept cold by keeping it in the fridge before consuming.

“When the fridge contains a large amount of food it has to work overtime to cope. If the weather outside is hot the temperature inside can rise. Check your fridge thermometer to make sure it is operating below 5OC.”

Dr Hambleton said if you run out of room in your fridge to store food:

  • take out the beer – lukewarm drinks can’t make you sick. Fill the laundry sink or insulated containers or buckets with ice to keep drinks cool;
  • put whole fruit and whole raw vegetables in the cupboard or a bowl; and/or
  • take jars of pickles, chutneys and bottled sauces that have vinegar on the label out of the fridge. They can survive for a couple of days without refrigeration.

To have a safe holiday this year, remember:

  • when preparing food, make sure that hands, clothes, equipment and kitchen surfaces are clean;
  • don’t use the same utensils for raw meats and cooked meats;
  • refrigerate leftovers immediately after the meal and use within three days;
  • cook poultry, minced meats, sausages and other prepared meats until they reach 75OC (steaks and other solid meats can be cooked according to preference); and
  • don’t leave perishable nibbles like dips and soft cheeses out in the temperature danger zone for too long – instead, divide them into small amounts and replenish when needed.

Dr Hambleton said Christmas is a time for relaxing with family, not queuing in hospital emergency departments because of food poisoning.

24 December 2013

CONTACT:        Kirsty Waterford                02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753 

Image by Joe Buckingham on Flickr, used under creative commons licence.

Published: 24 Dec 2013